Thursday, 15 April 2010

Marathon Mum


With the Virgin London marathon just over a week away, Nicola Bamford spoke to Britain’s first female finisher from the 2008 event, Liz Yelling about returning to fitness since the birth of her daughter and how she now copes with being a marathon mum...

For 35-year-old Yelling, life is no longer just about juggling the miles with her successful journalism and coaching careers, but also combining new motherhood around her family home in Dorset.

Originally from Bedford, Yelling and husband Martin; a former international distance runner, Ironman triathlete and her advisor have formed a formidable partnership where they work from home (on , and editorial for media outlets) in addition to sharing babysitting and training duties.

Such a supportive home environment has evidently aided Yelling’s swift return to fitness since the birth of Ruby last summer, as the reigning Commonwealth marathon bronze-medallist successfully made her competitive return last winter and already has a couple of half-marathon times in 2010 akin to her 2004/5 form under her belt:

“I have enjoyed the racing and it has provided me with benchmarks to where I am at and (it has been) a real reality check,” explained Yelling.

“Knowing how unfit I am really motivates me to train and give me focus. My training has gone well - I have been super cautious and very progressive in my build up, as I want to avoid injury and create a strong base to build on this summer. There is some way to go before I’m back to full fitness.”

Priorities change

Coached by Alex Stanton; the man who has guided Yelling and marathon world-record holder Paula Radcliffe since their teenage years, Yelling has all the inspiration she could crave as she pounds daily along the Bournemouth seaside promenade with only the fresh sea air and occasionally, her new addition in the running buggy, for company.

Priorities change but Yelling is determined to combine enjoying motherhood with running her way back to her 2008 form; the year Yelling truly made her mark on the athletics scene. The sister-in-law of Hayley Yelling; the 2009 European cross-country Champion, Yelling followed up her 5th place in the continental championships with capturing her fourth English National title before placing 15th in the global cross championships.

A plethora of half-marathon victories in eye-catching times followed in the spring before Yelling’s finest hour; finishing first Brit and ninth overall in a world-class field in the Flora London marathon with a lifetime best of 2:28.33.

Rollercoaster year

Such a breakthrough performance however, was followed by a devastating low four months later, as Yelling; with high hopes, was accidently tripped at the 15km point in the Beijing Olympic marathon and struggled on to finish with bruised ribs in 26th place; albeit seven-minutes faster than her Olympic debut four-years earlier in Athens:

“I was totally gutted post-race, as I was in the shape of my life and ready for a great run,” revealed Yelling. “No one wants to break a rib through hitting the deck in the Olympic Marathon. It was a very hard last 16-miles.”

After a long enforced break, Yelling’s rollercoaster year took a turn for the better, though, with the announcement of her first pregnancy:

“I love being a mum. It is the most amazing experience. I really have been blown away by it,” exclaimed Yelling. “Martin and I have a great routine and I am very lucky that we have more flexibility than most couples. Martin is very supportive, encouraging and understanding of what is required for me to get back to my old running self again.”

Under no pressure
Insisting she feels under no pressure to return to fast times straight away and that she feels excited yet patient about racing again, Yelling continued:

“(During pregnancy) I ran easy 5-6 times a week up to 20-weeks then I was diagnosed with placenta previa, which meant I was not able to run during the second half of my pregnancy. Once I had given birth and recovered, I had not run a step in eight-months. You can imagine I was very unfit when I started back.

After I gave birth, I had 2-weeks resting then I then slowly built the frequency and duration of running and just kept the pace very easy for 6-months. I know that (the quality) will come and by the summer I hope to be back to my old training ways.”

2012 the target

Having competed internationally for the past twenty-years, Yelling may have lost some time as an athlete but she certainly has not lost any of her ambition.

Preferring to focus on her new family unit and getting into top shape for this year, Yelling has already entered the Edinburgh marathon next month as a ‘fact finder’ and states making the top-ten in the 2012 Olympic marathon as the main target for the remainder of her career.

On her aspirations away from racing, Yelling revealed:

“I really enjoy my coaching and helping others achieve more from being active and participating in running at every level. I’m putting on a beginners running day for women in Regents Park on June 25th.

Full days

Enjoying her sport in a new way, this marathon mum is clearly embracing running and being a working mum; a lifestyle certain to see her achieve her goals in both sporting and personal aspects of life.

On her potential future protégé, Yelling continued:

“I want Ruby to enjoy being active and have positive experiences of exercising and having fun in the outdoors. If she chooses to run when she is older, I will support her and help where I can. I don’t want to be a pushy parent and I want her to follow her own dreams not mine for her!

My days are full, but I am enjoying every moment working, being a mother and wife and a runner.”

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